Ixcateco Grill | 3402 W. Montrose Ave. | Chicago, IL 60618 | 773-539-5887 | ixcatecogrill.com

Dinner Hours | Tuesday-Thursday 5-10 p.m. | Friday-Saturday 5-10:30 p.m. | Sunday 5-10 p.m. | Closed Monday

Brunch Hours | Saturday-Sunday 10 a.m-2:30 p.m.

ONLINE RESERVATIONS | CALL FOR RESERVATIONS: 773-539-5887 | MAJOR CREDIT CARDS ACCEPTED

MEET CHEF ANSELMO RAMIREZ

At age 12, when Chef Anselmo Ramirez’ family arrived in the United States from their native Guerrero, Mexico, his father said to him, “This is a country where you can do what you love.” These words have proven to be true for this talented, respected chef who for 13 years built his résumé at Frontera Grill and Topolobampo and then worked under the tutelage of Sarah Stegner and George Bumbaris.

“If I was to give advice to my younger self,” said Ramirez, “I would give myself the same advice, because it has turned out to be the best I ever got. I’ve followed my passions and it has led to a great career. Every day, I do what I love to do.”

Now at the age of 35, Ramirez is following his dream to run his own restaurant, Ixcateco Grill, located at 3402 W. Montrose in Chicago’s Albany Park. It is a casual neighborhood restaurant serving authentic cuisine from Mexico’s southern regions.

Ramirez’ love affair with good food started very early. He vividly remembers his grandmother in Mexico preparing wonderful family meals, using fresh local ingredients. “Her mole sauces were amazing,” he says. “She would start two days early, preparing the ingredients, and she would slow simmer the moles over a wood fire for many hours, sometimes for days. I prepare my moles the same, authentic way. There are several moles on the menu at all times.”

Becoming a professional chef was not on his radar until he was 15 and landed a part-time job as a dishwasher at El Salvador’s restaurant in Forest Park. It was there that he recognized how much he loved the business. From El Salvador’s, he moved on to Chef Rick Bayless’ Frontera Grill, where he also started as a dishwasher. Fortuitously, within seven months he was promoted to line cook.

Once Ramirez was cooking, he never looked back. He worked through the ranks in Frontera Grill’s kitchen for seven years, and then was promoted to Bayless’ famed four-star Topolobampo restaurant, where he worked closely with executive chef Tracey Vowell. “Working in Chef Bayless’ restaurants was like going to culinary school, and I am very grateful for the opportunity he gave me,” Ramirez said. He remembers that he once cooked for Senator Obama and his wife when they dined at Topolobampo. “That was definitely a thrill.”

Later, Ramirez had the opportunity to work with Sarah Stegner and George Bumbaris, with whom he worked for two years. “I learned a lot from them, particularly the importance of using fresh local, organic ingredients,” he said. “They are healthy and taste best. Using this type of ingredients means I need to keep evolving my menu to stay seasonal. This is an exciting challenge and it has become my personal philosophy as a chef.”

Ramirez’ cooks with a well-honed feel for great flavor combinations, and this is readily apparent in Ixcateco Grill’s menu of delicious Mexican street food. His greatest joy is when guests tell him he takes Mexican cuisine to a whole new level. As he puts it, “Cooking is my number one love. Watching people enjoy it is number two.”

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